Teaching sight words to first graders

child with sight word flashcard
19 Apr SAV No Comments

I'm having trouble teaching sight words to my first graders. If you could share some ideas on how to teach sight words in English, I would be grateful.


Hello there,

If you are having trouble teaching sight words, then you are probably trying to teach too many at one time. And probably, you aren't making the lesson fun, so your pupils are not engaged. Here are some guidelines to teach sight words, the high-frequency words a child sees all the time when learning to read:


- Use big letter flashcards in lower case. Use different colours and props, like a fly swatter, to hit the card you say.

- Teach letter sounds, not letter names. Teach the sound 'a' as in cat, not the letter name 'a' as in ape.

- Show a couple of sounds and have kids say them. Ask kids to guess which sound you will show next.

- Play musical flashcards with the sounds.

- Make up a tune with the sight words in it and sing that, add some actions.

- Make up an action for each sound - it might be to form the letter with your body or mime a word that goes with that sound.

- Repeat, revise, play more games, and gradually feed in new sounds. Spend several lessons on the same five or six sounds or words. Repetition is the mother of skill.

- Go through the words in the same order. Start to mix up the order as the pupils become familiar with the sounds.

- Start blends like b+a=ba.

- Play sorting games, posting all one sound through the slot of a tissue box.

- Play snap with sounds. - Find the odd one out from a pile of sounds.

- Play hide and seek and hunt out the sound the teacher calls.

- For hundreds of games to practise sight words, check one of these books: Preschool games book or primary school games book.

ESL games for preschool book cover     ESL games for primary school book cover

These are some of the first sight words I would teach because they are so common: I, am, see, a, can, we, in, the, and, go, to, like, said, you, is, it, here, come, up, this, my, look, at, me, on.

Of course, tracing around the words, drawing pictures of the items and labelling them, and worksheets where you circle the matching sound, and so on are all valuable activities.

All the best,

Shelley Ann Vernon, Teaching English Games

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